The list began on-line in 2010.
Each list is compiled and published during December of that year and is neither in any order nor a list of trophys, points or repeats from previous years.
With so many social and economic upheavals experienced by so many this year, it’s time to retreat to the comfort of classic, beautiful wines as opposed to those which challenge and provoke discussion.
1. ‘Il Guercio’ from Sean O’Callaghan, Radda, Tuscany 2015. A profound expression of Sangiovese, composed of an etheral weightlessness yet supreme gravitas. Soft red fruit, brambles and truffled earth in perfect harmony. There are a few wines I use as a reference point and this has become one of them.
2. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Les Folatières 1er Cru, Puligny-Montrachet, 2011. Atlantis depth White Burgundy, with a kiss of new oak, bright acidity and a longer finish that a Bruce Springsteen encore. Drunk with a good friend for his 40th, who is a self-proclaimed white wine unenthusiast, said at the time, “this is a wine that just keeps giving.”
3. Eulogio Pomares,’Carralcoba’, Rias Baixas, 2015. The first release of this wine, from the man behind the wine at Zarate. Under his own label, this is the best Albariño I’ve drunk. With less oak than the wine above, the depth, precision and length is on par. Jamie Goode can explain.
4. Champagne Bérêche, ‘Reflet D’Antan’, NV. Comprised of a serious amount of reserve wine from a solera, this is one of the most complex, savoury, refined, fresh wines available. As one of Champagne’s leading growers/producers, this Domaine needs little introduction.
5. Envinate, ‘Benje’, 2015. From Envinate’s new parcel, 1000M+ above sea level in the North-West of Tenerife, close to the volcanic national park. A transparent wine of red fruit with a haunting perfume, the very old vine Listan Prieto (aka País) with a tiny proportion of Tintilla, captivates the senses.
6. Domaine Prieuré Roch, Rosés, 2014. An atypical rosé, orange in colour, with a mosaic of savoury stone fruit characters. Tiny amounts produced from one of Burgundy’s most exciting artisan producers.
7. Domaine de L’Ecu/Domaine Viret, ‘Fratis’, Rhône 2016 . One of the most creative producers in Muscadet, tag-teams with his friend in the Southern Rhône, to produce this bomb of a Syrah, from 9 months in amphora and zero added sulphur. A baby that needs years to unfurl yet excites today.
8. Luis Seabra, ‘Indie’, Douro, 2014.The maiden release of this sappy, crunchy, fruit driven blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Amarela with a healthy proportion of whole bunches. A wine with a long life ahead and my favourite wine from a talented winemaker who now consults at Suertes del Marques in Tenerife.
9. Niepoort, ‘Poeirinho’, Quinta de Baixo, Barraida, 2013. The Baga (means ‘berry’ in Portugese) grape at its finest. Stones, fruit, earth, in the most complex yet elegant understated way. Will improve over many, many years.
10. Les Vignes de L’Angevin, Nocturne 2014, Chahaignes, Loire. 40 miles North of Tours, is the creative energy that resides within Jean-Pierre Robinot. While his wines will not be to everyone’s taste, this squeaky clean old vine Pineau d’Aunis is in its infancy and yet crackles with drink’me now electricity. A wine of purity, fruit and vitality, it will convert anyone to this grape variety.
A year that many would have preferred Camberwick Green to Trumpton or a Soft Breakfast over a Hard Brexit. A year that many a star of stage, screen and studio shuffled off their mortal coil and you couldn’t move for Mother’s Ruin. So it seems fitting to begin the list with…..
1. BASTARDA, from Fedellos do Couto, Ribeira Sacra, 2013. There is clearly something special about a region whose best producers (many featured below) manage to create art in a rugged yet picture perfect setting. 100% Merenzao (known as Bastarda in Portugal and Trousseau in the Jura) this is full of sappy cherry herbs, as pretty as a footballer’s wife but also very bright.
2. Athénaïs ‘LoveJoy’, Vin de France (de Burgundy), 2014. This has rapidly and recently become the house White, chez Winerackd, due to its lasers and wicked minerals achieved via the medium of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Athénaïs is the négoce label created by Château de Beru in Chablis. If you like your Chenin Blanc the way Guiberteau makes his Saumur Blanc, then this is up your straße.
3. Meinklang, ‘Graupert’ Rot, 2008. “Bring me my Klang!” can be heard broadcasting from the mouths of the inebriated for good reason. This ‘untamed’ Zweigelt from the nether regions of Austria is all silky red brambles and undercarriage. Easily as good as the wines from the better known and much loved Herr. Moric. Good reason indeed to bring it on.
4. Recrue Des Sens – Yann Durieux, ‘DH Blanc’, Vin de France (de Burgundy), 2013. Another VdF Chardonnay from the (ex-)winemaker previously at that great unicorn breeder Prieuré-Roch. I poured a little of this for a respected palate, introducing it as the best White Burgundy I’ve ever had. Once the laughter had stopped, it was agreed that it is extremely fine and complex. With its bruised apples and oxidative grapefruit lanolin this is the opposite of Lovejoy.
5. Le Coste, ‘Rosato’, Lazio, 2015. Hailing from Gradoli (nope, me neither) this rosé which is orange in colour, bridges the gap between pink and red yet is not an Orange wine. From 50+yr old Aleatico vines, made with as little intervention as possible, it is full of perfumed sanguinello. Hashtag win.
6. AmByth Estate, “Princus”, Paso Robles, 2013. Dry farmed (though not in Wales) a kitchen sink of a wine blended from BioDynamic Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Viognier and Rousanne. Just over a thousand bottles produced of this no-sulfur wine, from a list of my least favourite grape varieties, so I have no idea how they’ve made something so epic.
7. Domaine André & Mireille Tissot, ‘La Tour de Couron’, Arbois, 2012. Run by Bénédicte and Stephane this premier league cuvée from one of the Jura’s best producers is another Chardonnay of transfixing proportions, yet different again to the other examples of Chardonnay mentioned. Fresh yet slightly oxidative, complex and long, it’s going to be hard to discover the benefits of ageing.
8. Yann Bertrand, ‘Cuvee de Chaos’, Fleurie, 2014/2015. If you listen carefully, you can hear the passionistas whispering ‘ssshhh’ in case the Beaujolais drinking masses change from their Foillard and Lapierre to this man’s work. Tiny quantities rarely in the UK mean that if Sauron’s eye were to land on him, we’d see even less of his wine in our hands.
9. Lousas (by Envinate), ‘Parcela Seoane,’ Ribeira Sacra, 2014. The best Mencia out there? The best wine from North West Spain? Seems it’s unavoidable to have an Envinate wine on the list. My tasting note at the time was ‘blasphemous’.
10. Champagne Roger Pouillon et Fils, ‘Les Blanchiens’ 2007. An exception to my usual non-dosé BdB rule, this low dose 50/50 blend is multi-layered and was probably enjoyed even more due to the context in which it was drunk (a Viennese garden in early summer). It did cement a burgeoning recognition that this quality of Champagne should be enjoyed as often as possible with fish and chips on a Tuesday.
The year that 67 Pall Mall arrived, the wine world truly embraced Orange, Joe Wadsack returned to TV, I wrote a guest post for Wineanorak and Olly Smith met the Queen.
For some context to the list(s), they are not about rarity or price as I have omitted a beautiful ’64 Borgogno Barolo and a terrific ’93 1er Cru Chambolle from Barthod. The wines made me sit up and take notice rather than smile, wide eyed at my good fortune in good company.
1. Aldo Conterno, ‘Gran Bussia’ Riserva, Barolo, 1985. A bottle which truly reflects everything I love about wine. Most Barolo is drunk too young and there are many producers who are heavy handed with new oak, making Barolo as much of a lottery as Burgundy, but for different reasons. When the stars align, this is what you get. Multi-dimensional, autumnal brambles, texture like silk and fresh as a daisy. Generously shared by Ossie Gray.
2. Duncan Savage, Follow The Line, 2014. Proof that perhaps the best wines coming out of South Africa at the moment are made from Cinsault and or made by Duncan. Introduced to me by Greg Sherwood MW, this blend also featuring 21% Grenache and 21% Syrah is the essence of delicacy, complexity, tension and length.
3. Philippe Pacalet, Charmes-Chambertin GC, 2008. A gift from Paul Van Maaren of Wine By Design and another wake up call for hands off wine making. The masterful Pacalet is producing exciting, pure wines, including Beaujolais. This wine is at the pinnacle and not far in style from the very feminine ’85 Barolo.
4. Lousas, ‘Camino Novo’, 2013. Staying true to form, another Envinate wine, this time from Galicia as opposed to Tenerife. With his partner Alfonso Torrente, wizard Santana (of Suertes del Marques fame) crafts the Mencia grape into bottled wilderness. Drink now or 10 years time.
5. Bérêche et Fils, Campania Remensis, Extra Brut Rosé, NV. Orange in colour, tasting of aged vintage Rosé from some of the best big houses, I wish I could drink it daily. For breakfast.
6. Contra Soarda, Vespaiolo Bianco, 121 bC, 2012. The year of Orange, from the infamous Vespaiolo grape, this wine is a leader of the pack. Glorious drinkability, astringency and complexity, it shows how Orange need not be 1 dimensional.
7. Forjas del Salnes, Finca Genoveva Tinto, 2012. Produced in tiny quantities, 100% whole bunch, another Galician star in both terms of producer and cuvée. From the Caiño grape, this bright cherry and white pepper wine has serious underpinnings of cliff face and lasers. Cos Pes, another wine from this producer also needs a mention.
8. Lino Maga (aka Barbacarlo), “Montebuono”, 1990. Like nothing tasted before, a blend of Croatina, Uva Rara, Ughetta and Barbera. A wine so alive it can hold a conversation. Fruit, acid, perfume and the gentlest Bootsy Collins influence should inspire a moment of contemplation.
9. Burlotto, ‘Monvigliero’ Barolo, 2011. The third Barolo this year to rekindle my passion (another was Giulia Negri’s La Tartufaia ’10). Foot trodden with whole bunches, exhibiting the mark of a truly great wine that it can be dunk now or in 20 years. Transparent, no new oak, silky yet structured, with all the hallmarks of great Nebbiolo, it will be an exercise in patience.
10. Julien Aviet, Cuvée des Géologues, Arbois, 2012. I first tried this at the beginning of 2015 and it quickly started popping up in just about every social media engaged wine geek’s feed. This is 100% Trousseau at its finest and one of several wines from Jura that could endanger the affordability of great wine.
The New Year’s message was to ask people not to use the word ‘showing’ when they mean ‘tasting’. Wine is not dressage.
2014, was a year to embrace dry Sherry again. And Noble Rot magazine
The top 10 vinous highlights of 2014, in no particular order after No.1 are:
1. Marc Sorrel, “La Greal” Hermitage, 1983. Sublime, very much alive yet elegantly mature like the man who ordered it, Mr David Beresford. Much enjoyed during 1 of many memorable nights at Sager + Wilde.
2. Peter Wetzer, Kekfrankos, 2011. As Jamie Goode once said, I wish more Hungarians would make wine like this. Pure, bright red fruit with acidity and backbone. A favourite.
3. Radikon, Slatnik, 2012. The best vintage yet? You’d have to ask Frederic Grappe, but a stunning skin contact 80% Chardonnay, 20% Tocai Friuli from the master of this style.
4. Suertes del Marques, El Esquilon, 2012/13. Not sure Indigo bring this one in from SdM, but it is a wonderful bright, rustic complex red, made with 15% Tintilla (Trousseau) blended with Listan Negro the local variety worked by the wizard Roberto Santana.
5. Envinate, Taganan ‘Parcela Amogoje’, 2013. More from Roberto mentioned above. A field blend of local varieties, grown on a cliff face (practically), then vinified and blended with great care. Tiny production of an ethereal wine.
6. Daniel Jimenez-Landi, El Reventon, 2011. The top cuvée from a Spanish trail blazer. Needs some serious time in a cellar, but what a wine….. tasting of mountains, the earth, brambles and notes of Donkey Kong.
7. Terroir al Limit – Les Manyes & Terra de Cuques, 2011/12. Have to mention both, as although Les Manyes would be what wine tasted like if DRC made red wine in Priorat, it also attracts a premium price. The beautiful Terra de Cuques, is a blend of dry Pedro Ximenez + Muscat and is so perfumed, complex, moreish and good value.
8. Broc Cellars, Vine Starr Zinfandel, 2012. This year’s shocker, for many in the wine trade. Zinfandel? Really? You could have knocked me over with feather as well as the wine as it is as light and as elegant as one. Fully ripe at 12%?…. hush now……
9. Domaine Lucie, Les Saviaux, 2012. Like pure Syrah? Like no new oak? Like the style of Dard and Ribo? Get in. A wine I put forward for this year’s “Absolutely Cracking Wines” from France event and I believe it was warmly received.
10. Julien Sunier, Fleurie, 2011/12. A delight. One of the best producers of Cru Beaujolais. Purity, complexity, fresh.
The New Year’s message that year was to ask people not to use the word ‘collection’ when they mean ‘selection’.
Wine is not a stamp.
2013, was a year to embrace tension. This word is one of the best I have come across, adopted by my favourite wine merchant, to describe fresh exciting wines, which speak of a place and exhibit vitality. They are most often examples of wine making with minimum intervention.
In no particular order are:
1. Mark Haisma’s Cornas 2010. Mark describes this as one of the 5 best wines he’s ever made and I do not doubt it. The essence of juicy, fresh, earthy, complex Syrah.
2. Dominio do Bibei, Lapola 2011. Usually a weighty complex Godello based wine, the ’11 is the freshest vintage to date, made with a lighter hand and quite an electrifying example of Atlantic influenced wine making.
3. Terroir Al Limit, Torroja 2011. The antithesis of Priorat, a supremely elegant 50/50 blend of Carignan and Garnacha, raised in concrete and large old oak foudres.
4. Bass Phllip, Premium Pinot Noir 2010. A baby given as a gift and drunk with the gifter. A sublime, complex, ethereal wine at the apex of Australian wine making.
5. Thörle, Saulheimer Kalkstein Riesling 2012. From a rising star in the Rheinhessen, a rich, bone dry, super bright Riesling, the wine nut’s favourite grape.
6. Guiberteau, Saumur Blanc 2010. Piercing dry Chenin Blanc from one of the lesser known and best producers in the region. Complex, mineral, long wine.
7. Hervé Souhaut, La Souteronne 2011. Beautiful Gamay from the Ardeche. As un-Beajolais as you can get yet with grip, black fruit and amazing drinkability.
8. Vinochisti, E2, 2010. The Erbaluce grape, grown in Piedmonte, trucked to the home of an English wine maker in Tuscany, of which a good proportion is left on skins for 40 days and the rest for 2-20 days. Rich oxidative characters meet fresh acidity in a wine that is as wacky and wonderful as it sounds.
9. Moric, Burgenland, Blaufränkisch 2011. I wish I’d known about this guy sooner, but this almost Burgundian, unoaked fruity wine ticks all the boxes for me.
10. Hoffman and Rathbone, Rosé Reserve 2010. English wine and especially the sparkling goes from strength to strength, with a few producers rising above the rest. This beautiful wine is made by a craftsman and packaged equally well, reflecting the commitment and appeal.
The New Year’s message that year, was to ask people not to use the word ‘tasting’ when they mean ‘drinking’.
The 2012 list continues to move away from big, extracted, newly oaked wines, in favour of the pursuit of elegance, precision, less alcohol, acidity and fruit that speaks of its origin. More fermentation in concrete and 1000L+ old barrels please.
In no particular order:
1. Domaine de L’R, Chinon, Folies Noyer Verts, 2010. Beautifully made, red fruits and trademark Franc spice, that should age beautifully.
2. Ridge, Estate Cabernet, 2008. I first got into wine by embracing all that is Napa, but have shied away from some of the bolder efforts. For Napa, this Cab is elegance and complexity personified.
3. Kalleske, Barossa, Merchant Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010. This wine is as though some has sprinkled biodynamic fairy dust on what should be a monster. It isn’t and it just glides down. I’d take this over 707, any day.
4. Pithon-Paillé, Anjou, Coteau des Treilles, 2008. All of this producers wines are superb, but this top of the tree effort, is bone dry, apples, honeyed, piercing and complex. Enjoyed with the inimitable Matt Walls, whose face on first sip, was a picture.
5. Daniel Bouland, Morgon, VV, 2009. Jancis beat me to writing about it, but after the Dirty Dozen tasting this year, I grabbed a case. The epitome of the best Beaujolais is now producing. As Will Hargrove (Corney & Barrow) would say, ‘no blue fruit’.
6. Shobbrook Wines, Barossa, Syrah 2010. Astonishing, complex, elegant, totally Un-Shiraz. I’m already a huge fan of the Eden Riesling.
7. Gonzalez-Byass, Fino, Dos Palmas. If Sherry was a religion, this would convert the atheist. On first sip, the words, “No!, shut up” spring to mind. Seasonal limited release in the Autumn.
8. La Rioja Alta, 904, 1998. From one of the finest old school producers, a wine of sheer complexity, red and black fruit, smoke and leather, long, long finish. Divine.
9. Prager, Wachau, ‘Klaus’ Smaragd Riesling, 2008. I’m a big fan of Riesling and GV from Wachau and this one simply knocked my sox off. Weighty, slightly smoky, piercing acidity and length. Up there with Knoll and FX Pichler.
10. Beer – The Rocky Head, Pale Ale. As far as I am concerned, Kernel’s Citra or Double IPA have been leagues ahead of everyone else in the UK craft beer game, but this year, The Rocky Head has produced something as good. Superb complexity, bags of hops, tropical notes and good weight.
It would be easy to include wines 2&3 from the 2010 list, but in the spirit of originality, here are some corkers tasted for the first time in 2011. One mark of a fine wine, is the desire to buy it several times over. Another is that it will give great enjoyment now or in 10 years time.
In no particular order:
1. Domaine Vacheron, Belle Dame 2008. Silky Pinot Noir from Sancerre with no new oak influence. A wine that stands out from the Pinot Noir crowd.
2. Gramercy Cellars, Washington State, Tempranillo 2008/09. A comfortable new home for this Spanish grape. Fruit, grip and freshness.
3. Gonzales Byass, Una Palma, Fino. The trendiest and tastiest bottled gold.
4. Le Soula Rouge 2008. Difficult to choose between the red and white from this terrific SW France estate. Mediterranean wine without the garigue.
5. Jim Barry, Florita, 2008. A benchmark Clare Valley Riesling. Limes, zippy, pith and stones.
6. Jean Foillard, Cote de Py, 2009. Another remarkable Cru Beaujolais. Fruit, depth and silk.
7. Philippe Pichard, Domaine de la Chapelle, L’Arcestral, 2006. Possibly the most surprising wine of the year. Tastes like mature right bank Bordeaux. Glorious.
8. Chateau Rayas, La Pialade, 2006. *Not actually my first taste as this is the wine that re-educated my palate leading me to search for balance, elegance, freshness and fruit as opposed to oaked monsters.
9. Burklin Wolf, Ungeheuer GG, 2010, Pfalz. One of several fantastic Rieslings that highlight the brilliance of the recent German dry vintages. I do seem to prefer the Pfalz though.
10. Clos du Gravillas, Rendez Vous, 2007. A Languedoc blend of 4 grapes showing how biodynamic, handmade wines can shine. A multi-dimensional wine that over delivers for the price.
1. Domaine DuBost, En Brenay, Moulin A Vent, 2009. 12.5% Amazing recovery for the Beaujolais brand this year.
2. Dominio do Bibei, Lalama, 2006. 12.5% A grape no ones heard of from a place no ones heard of making a stunning wine.
3. Rogers & Petersen, Shiraz, 2008. 13.5% This made by Mac Forbes is how to make Aussie Shiraz.
4. Reichsrat Von Buhl, Spätburgunder, 2007/08. 13% German Pinot Noir so light yet complex you wonder how it’s possible.
5. Domaine Mas Theo, Coteaux de Tricastin, 2007. 13% Biodynamic and no oak. More please.
6. John Duvall, Plexus, 2007. 14.5% Should hit you like a hammer, but instead kisses you like an angel. (I nearly put SC Pannell here.)
7. Fromm Winery, Fromm Vineyard, Marlborough, 2005. 14% Very classy Pinot Noir. (I nearly put Domaine Serene here.)
8. Chateau Martet, Graves, 2004. 100% Merlot from the left bank. 13% Quirky and quality.
9. Antonio Futuro, Vinho Verde, Branco, 2009. 12% Can do for Vinho Verde what 09 did for Beaujolais and what I will be drinking after the ice-age.
10. Domaine des Bruyeres, David Reynaud, Crozes-Hermitage, 2009. 13% Biodynamic, juice and earth, no oak and an eye opener.